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On scythes and sclerophylly

In the beginning…

Every time I take a long Falci grass blade out into the paddock, I expect to have to do a bit of fine tuning to hit the blade’s ‘sweet spot’ where it mows best.

This is partly because of the first tests I did with a Falci vs. Fux blade, which are indelibly seared into my memory.

I took my 75cm Fux blade out onto the lawn, along with a new 75cm Falci blade, and two matching Swiss snaths (the Canadian ones weren’t ready at the time).

The two 75cm blades put to the test on lawn.

The two 75cm blades put to the test on lawn.

The Falci absolutely killed the Fux, hands downs, no competition – it mowed better (see the pic that I took at the time), more easily, and felt nicer in the hands, being a lighter blade.

Then I took the same two rigs out into the paddock and my world nearly fell apart… the Fux killed the Falci. Over the next few days Tony and I spent literally hours figuring out how the Falci could outperform the Fux so convincingly on the lawn, and then fail so convincingly in the paddock.

The first problem was that I was treating them as identical blades – mounting them on identical snaths and setting the hafting angle the same for both blades. We also found that Tony’s 75cm Falci performed much better than my 75cm Falci – the same length blade from the same batch – so there was also obviously something going on with my blade.

The really big problem turned out to be the twist of the tang on my Falci blade – it needed a lot of adjustment. I’d spoken to Peter Vido about the variation in the Falci blades and he’d given me some pointers about sorting out any problems, but I have to confess that I figured the main impact these changes would have would be on ergonomics and comfort – not so much on performance.

But when I addressed the tang twist, the difference in performance was amazing – which is why we adjust the tang angles on the blades we ship, if they don’t fall within certain parameters.

More experimentation is good

So why all this reflection?  Well, we’ve recently been trying some blades of another origin (more on that another day) and comparing them to the Falci and the Fux. And it got me experimenting again, and the results have surprised me again. Conventional wisdom has it that for a 75cm blade, a straight-edge placed along the face of the tang would meet the blade somewhere between halfway along the blade and three quarters of the way along the blade, as pictured below:

 

Excuse the diagram (see the photos below as well) – meant to depict a blade as though you’re looking straight down the top face of the tang; the knob end of the tang would be closest to the eye. On a 75cm blade, the tang is twisted to an angle that would intersect the blade somewhere between halfway and three quarters along the blade.

On a 90cm blade, the tang has more twist – it should ‘point’ somewhere between one quarter and one half of the way along the blade:

Tang twist 90cm blade

Here’s a photo of a 75cm blade with a ‘standard’ tang twist applied:

75cm Falci blade. This would be the outer limit of the one half to three-quarters the way along the blade. Indeed, I think this tang twist is too flat – my assistant (my 12 year old son) has pushed the cardboard down rather generously to make it meet the blade sooner than it would with a solid straight edge.

With very short blades the twist is less of an issue as they’re often used for off-ground mowing and the shorter length makes the point less inclined to dig in.

What I did in the most recent round of experimentation was to take things to an extreme. I wedged the blades so that the twist was effectively the same as a very twisted tang, and I closed the hafting angle – a lot. So while conventional wisdom would suggest a three-finger hafting angle would be a good starting point for a 75cm blade, I more than doubled it. And the results surprised me. I expected to get virtually no depth of cut at all due to the very closed hafting angle – and indeed it felt like I wasn’t cutting grass – but I was cutting grass, and quite nicely thank you very much. I called Tony over and asked him to try it, and his comment was, “it’s like the grass isn’t even there!”

I played with it some more and found that, for me at least, the extra tang twist made more of a difference to the overall performance than the extra hafting angle. I’m so convinced by the results of this experimentation that I broke out the oxy torch and set a couple of my blades this way, permanently: my 75cm now has a tang twist that conventional wisdom would have it as far too steep: I have it twisted steeper than many 90cm blades.

I also added some extra twist to my 90, and in testing I did actually take it even further, but found that beyond a certain point the twist starts to affect how you hold the snath – because the tip is so far off the ground that you need to roll the grips around over the snath to get the point anywhere near mowing range, which has knock-on effects in itself.

Tony, meanwhile, felt that the extra hafting angle was still worth pursuing – any loss of ‘bite’ (or depth of cut) did seem to be made up by the ease of mowing afforded by the closure.

So, a photo first, and then some wild speculation about what’s going on here.

This is how I’ve set my own 75cm blade. It mows much better like this.

 

What these adjustments do, practically, is lift the point off the ground. You can roughly quantify how much lift (relatively speaking) you’re getting in the point by looking along the flat edge of the top face of the snath with the blade fitted up:

point-lift

A Falci 90cm blade fitted into a Swiss snath.

 

So what’s happening?

From a Southern Scythe Squad session years ago: this native grass was nearly killing me when I was mowing it ‘logically’ by going uphill (no bending required!) When I came at it from behind, on an angled downhill approach, the difference was unbelievable.

I heard of a visiting Canadian chopping team who sank their axes into our tough Australian timber and wondered what the hell they’d struck. Anyone who’s worked with some of our timbers like Red Gum or Gidgee would more than understand that experience. I had also heard people speak of our ‘tough grasses’, and wondered whether there was really anything to the claim. As an excuse for an unsuccessful mowing experience, it always struck me as pretty flimsy; there have been enough times when I’ve taken to mowing what seemed to be an impenetrable barrier, only to find that if I change one thing, or a couple of things, the impenetrable is swept away cleanly. The things to change can include varying angles on your blade setup, the edge preparation, grip adjustment, and direction of approach to the target… pretty much anything. If I’ve learnt one thing about scythe mowing, it’s that there’s always more to learn, and a wider range of experience in different mowing conditions helps you identify what’s going wrong.

But in talking to Tony, he pointed out (he’s a botanist) that it’s long been suggested (since the 1960s) that our low phosphorous soils cause sclerophylly – the hardening of vegetation that gives rise to our ‘sclerophyll forests’. In hunting this down, I’ve confirmed that the hypothesis now seems to be regarded as fact, but I haven’t been able to find any evidence for or against a hypothesis that such a response could be manifest within a generation. That is, we know that our native grasses are tougher – and presumably they’ve evolved that way over innumerable generations – but I haven’t come across anything to suggest or discredit a notion that a hardening of vegetation would occur to an individual plant which has recently been phosphorous-deprived – e.g. an introduced species sown into our soil. In scientific terms I guess the question would be whether low phosphorous is solely a selection pressure, or whether low phosphorous can actually produce a sclerophylly response in an individual plant. I’m sure someone knows the answer, but with a bit of casual browsing on the interwebs, I haven’t found it. I might make a more concerted effort at a later stage.

cocksfootIn the meantime, I thought I’d take the camera out and film some cocksfoot grass, and get some comments from mowers in other climes on whether they have grasses of equivalent presentation. Out to the left here is a photo of me standing next to a clump of rank cocksfoot. As far as mowing grass goes, this is about as tough as it gets here in my neck of the woods.

I asked my daughter to film me while I tackled that very clump:

Cocksfoot, of course, is not a native Australian grass, and if there are any European or Mediterranean readers out there who can comment on how these grasses present in their natural surrounds, we’d be interested to hear.

And we do also have paddocks of lush green, leafy grass and clover, and some of that lush grass is cocksfoot – it only goes clumpy like this when it has “inadequate” grazing. And when it gets to this stage, even tractor-mounted mowers have trouble getting it back to normal length.

Okay, but what’s that got to do with your crazy tang twist?

Well, I’m beginning to suspect, everything. The Falci blades are quite flexible along their length. You can hold the beard flat against a surface such that the point sits quite high in the air, and then fairly easily push that point down onto the same surface. It may tend to twist along the rib a bit, but it will still go down. So I think what may be happening is that the hard stems are collectively putting up enough resistance to have that effect of pulling the tip down, which makes the tip tend to dig in, and give a rougher ride all round. Whereas on a lawn where the resistance offered by the grass is negligible, you can get away with a tang twist that will give you all kinds of grief in a paddock.

But I’m really just speculating. And it should be stressed that, as with most things on scythe setup, “conventional wisdom” is just a starting point. So my crazy tang twist may not actually be so crazy after all – again, we’d love to hear comments from others who have experimented.

I’d encourage others to try the same – wedge your blades to lift the tip and see what happens. Ideally you should use a full snath-width wedge that distributes the pressure of the attachment ring pressing the tang onto the snath as evenly as possible, so as to not damage the end of the snath. A wedge in this shape is ideal:

wedge

And inserted like this:

Looking up the snath from the blade end.

Looking up the snath from the blade end.

 

We’d love to hear how it goes.

10 Comments

  1. These comments were sent to me by Peter as suggestions to consider to improve the post I wrote above. Chiefly due to a lack of time to rework them into the post, I’ve created this comment and put in his notes pretty much verbatim. As he notes, he’s typically less guarded about his emailed comments than he would be if he was writing a public post, so I take responsibility for any negative ‘tone’ here – these were sent as comments to me… as a sparring partner who can take it on the chin.

    “Every time I take a long Falci grass blade”… Do you also have long Falci “ditch” or “bush” blades? To put it in other way, the ‘grass’ is not only redundant here, it perpetuates confusing/skewed concepts (that I’ve addressed before). Many plants cut with long blades are, botanically, not grasses. The Slavic languages, for instance, have no equivalent for ‘grass blade’; long scythe blade is a long scythe blade, and those who use them know what all can be cut with them.

    “…out into the paddock, I expect to…” Naively, I expect that a person now in some degree of ‘marshaling’ position would readily recognize (possible) need to fine-tune his unit, and might do so BEFORE he even walks out onto the lawn /paddock etc. with it

    “…I took my 75cm Fux blade out onto the lawn, along with a new 75cm Falci blade, and two matching Swiss snaths (the Canadian ones weren’t ready at the time).” That was good; nothing like keeping the rest of parameters consistent while investigating just one specific feature.

    “…The Falci absolutely killed the Fux…” Yes, I get the point, but holy smoke!! One scythe blade KILLING another one?? Seems like the sort of “poetic license” Hollywood folks would come up with, not farmers…

    “… hands downs, no competition – it mowed better (see the pic that I took at the time), more easily, and felt nicer in the hands, being a lighter blade.” Here is my guess why that was so: The bevel on the Falci blades as you presently receive them is considerably more penetrating than the bevel Schrockenfux blades have — as they leave the factory for market via (most of) the mail order internet sellers — or as most people would likely get them shaped by means of their own jigs or hammers. Provided you honed that un-ready-to-use-but very thin Falci factory bevel well, it would certainly outperform (not ‘kill’) most any other blade you’d likely find anywhere on the commercial market today — although that in itself, I want to emphasize, is not necessarily a measure of blade quality overall. Its ability to cut with such ease ‘coaxed’ you to not pay adequate attention to the fact that the horizontal balance of that unit of yours was off. You simply compensated for it by holding the grips so as to accommodate the action/’desire’ of the blade. Because there was so little weight of cut forage to push over into the windrow, your body (the wrist specifically) did not complain. The main ammunition of that unit was the thin bevel which I suspect, the Austrian blade did not have. Hardly a fair trial, in that respect.

    “Then I took the same two rigs out into the paddock and my world nearly fell apart” Yeah, once you took that blade into the paddock, where the utmost penetration of the edge was somewhat less important — but other factors were — you changed the odds, possibly in more ways than one. The most likely of them was that while needing now to move more weight, your wrist instinctively refused to keep the blade adequately balanced, horizontally. Thus ‘unsupported’, and with the extra weight of grass pushing down upon it, the point was likely to nose-dive. Also, the very 75 cm Falci blades you received with your first order happen to have been made circa 30 years ago. NOBODY makes blades quite so thin in body anymore. Such blades are a treat to me, or other old men all over Europe, but were possibly not intended for cutting tough Tasmanian meadows, or be put into hands that can’t (yet? :)) feel how exactly a very light blade is to be guided through an occasional extra-challenging terrain, for which a stiffer/heavier blade might be more fitting. Given those factors PLUS with the tilt off the ideal, no wonder that poor blade ended up being “killed”. The Austrian blade, heavier (and stiffer) in body, plus with the tilt set in factory specifically for that very snath model would naturally have an advantage — even though I surely would take the ‘looser’ as my personal mate…))

    “… the Fux killed the Falci. Over the next few days Tony and I spent literally hours figuring out how the Falci could outperform the Fux so convincingly on the lawn, and then fail so convincingly in the paddock…” ‘HOURS’? Oh, you two are certainly efficient! It took the little me YEARS to feel at least semi-qualified to respond to this post in a (hopefully) constructive way.

    “The first problem was that I was treating them as identical blades…” ‘identical’ scythe blades, at least of the “hand-forged” type do not exist, period. Those made on the same day by the same workers presumably come close, yet they may be as different from each other as the kisses you place upon your lover’s lips on the same night…

    “…the same length blade from the same batch…” What you, as a tiny-scale scythe buyer, refer to as ‘one batch’ may have been made during any of the five days of a week, OR even any day of a year…

    “The really big problem turned out to be the twist of the tang.” As I see it, the ‘really big problem’ is not the tang but rather the ‘twisted’ grasp of the fitting matters on part of the man.

    “… on my Falci blade – it needed a lot of adjustment. I’d spoken to Peter Vido about the variation in the Falci blades and he’d given me some pointers about sorting out any problems, but I have to confess that I figured the main impact these changes would have would be on ergonomics and comfort – not so much on performance.” Ergonomics and performance are simply the two sides of the same coin; if it weren’t so, the concept would probably have not gained the momentum it has within industry at large as well as the money-grabbing circles. Entrepreneurs, as you know, have been making piles of money by selling “ergonomic” everything — even if, often enough, it is a mere hoax…

    “But when I addressed the tang twist, the difference in performance was amazing – which is why we adjust the tang angles on the blades we ship, if they don’t fall within certain parameters.” Very nice of you to provide such a service! However, when someone orders only a blade, what do you do? How do you decide on what are ‘correct’ parameters? Already the difference in suitable tang tilt between the two snath models you use, and say Scythe Supply or Marugg — all of which are now in Australia — can be significant, never mind if someone makes their own one-grip snath.

    “Conventional wisdom…” “Conventional wisdom” on the subject of scythes is a rather regional sort of phenomenon. Are you referring to Austrian, Polish, Swiss or Tasmanian version thereof?

    “Here’s a photo of a 75cm blade with a ‘standard’ tang twist applied…” As alluded to above, there’s NO standard tang twist, period. However, every scythe owner has three options of how to achieve the “horizontal balance” so it ends up as it ought to be, and two of them do not require a torch. You mention one of them — the wedge, although I’d recommend it mostly for experimental purposes. Once the desirable tilt is settled on, I’d change the bottom of the snath to that very angle.

    “With very short blades the twist is less of an issue…” Yes, you are right

    “…as they’re often used for off-ground mowing…” Well, I’d never put it this way. Indeed, I’m quite sure that precisely the situations where mowing close-to-the ground surface was the expected thing to do, determined the tang angles’ most exacting regional standards, both with short and long blades.

    “…and the shorter length makes the point less inclined to dig in…” That is certainly so.

    “I called Tony over and asked him to try it, and his comment was, “it’s like the grass isn’t even there!”” I suspect that both of you were pulling your blades somewhat more ‘straight across’ than is the case with the contemporary/new generation scythe crowd when they are doing the semi-circular ‘field stroke’.

    “I played with it some more and found that, for me at least, the extra tang twist made more of a difference to the overall performance than the extra hafting angle.” Yes, in some cases, that is to be expected

    “I have it twisted steeper than many 90cm blades.” What snath designs are those “many 90cm blades” used with, and by whom?

    “I also added some extra twist to my 90, and in testing I did actually take it even further, but found that beyond a certain point the twist starts to affect how you hold the snath” NOT ‘beyond a certain point’, my friend; the thing you keep referring to as a “twist”, (but I call the”TILT”) effects everything, always.

    “…because the tip is so far off the ground that you need to roll the grips around over the snath to get the point anywhere near mowing range, which has knock-on effects in itself.” Yes, of course, this is the case of ‘too much of a good thing’. By “knock-on effects”, I take it, you are referring to extra strain on the wrist.

    “Tony, meanwhile, felt that the extra hafting angle was still worth pursuing – any loss of ‘bite’ (or depth of cut) did seem to be made up by the ease of mowing afforded by the closure.” In some situations and some patterns of the mowing stroke ONLY.

    “This is how I’ve set my own 75cm blade. It mows much better like this.” In case of the snath you presently use, and the movement YOU make with it. If, for instance you put that blade as you now have it on a typical one grip snath, you will be experiencing the very “knock-on effect” you are talking about above. Try it; it should take less than ½ hr to make such prototype of a snath and will greatly aid your scythe-education.
    “When I came at it from behind, on an angled downhill approach, the difference was unbelievable.” Yes, I do believe it. Your belief, up to that point (of ‘incremental satori’) may have been akin to a religious dogma, that, in this case states: AS LONG AS the vegetation is standing straight, the approach from bottom upwards (and on a slight diagonal) is best. Unfortunately, the first half of that sentence is often not included in the general advice, somewhat like “The Lost Books of the Bible”… In any case, once the environmental factors throw a monkey wrench into the whole, the wise mower goes with the flow… as you did. Congratulation!

    “The things to change can include varying angles on your blade setup, the edge preparation, grip adjustment, and direction of approach to the target… pretty much anything.” Bravo, you are on the right track!

    “Cocksfoot, of course, is not a native Australian grass, and if there are any European or Mediterranean readers out there who can comment on how these grasses present in their natural surrounds, we’d be interested to hear.” As one who introduced orchard grass (my preferred name for ‘cocksfoot’) to this piece of land 35 yrs ago, perhaps at some point I’ll offer a few thoughts;

    “Okay, but what’s that got to do with your crazy tang twist?”
    There is nothing ‘crazy’ about what you refer to as ‘twist’, though — as you noticed above — I prefer the more apt/illustrative term –The Tang’s TILT – because for centuries this very feature of a scythe blade was one of the basic factors to consider while striving for tool/its user harmony

    “The Falci blades are quite flexible along their length…” That is the case with every company’s light blade models, especially if they are also long. This, precisely, has always been one of the scythe makers’ major challenges — to walk the fine line between thin body/low weight and stiffness. They knew that every knowledgeable mower would prefer to have a blade that is relatively light, but also one that flexes as little as possible. In the past, many companies met this challenge admirably (with Austrians and Italians being the prime example among those who are still are at it). They’ve had to drop that parameter out of the equation, up to a point at least, because meeting it required more production costs than the (rapidly changing) market was willing to compensate them for. The contemporary production approach has led to blades with thicker bodies (that flex less along their length) but weaker necks (that also ‘allow’ points to nose-dive whenever a certain combination of factors comes into play. As I pointed out in the EVALUATION, it is here that Falci is still ahead of just about anyone else on the globe. However, that always was only partial solution to a complex of challenges. In defense of the scythe industry in general, I dare say that most of today’s scythe users do not ‘deserve’ what the scythe makers of the past tried so hard to produce, or even produce still. I consider the “more brawn than brain” an apt metaphor for the majority of new-on-the-scene mowers, from UK to Tazmania and everywhere in-between.

    “So I think what may be happening is that the hard stems…” ALL stems have that effect, in principle. What exactly is too much of a challenge for each respective blade, well that is something that — historically — each mower has had to ascertain for him/her selves.

    “…Whereas on a lawn where the resistance offered by the grass is negligible…” SOME lawns offer more of this sort of resistance than SOME ‘paddocks’.

    “… you can get away with a tang twist that will give you all kinds of grief in a paddock.” You are on the right (but complex) track here… Let’s just say that human minds — and by inevitable association — their bodies, are like plasticine. Sometimes that trait comes to our rescue, sometimes not…

    • Thanks again Peter for your input.

      I think we’re basically in agreement about what the problem was. The key difference in our opinions here seems to be that you seem to be suggesting that the problems I experienced may have just been due to my mowing style, particular way of holding the snath etc (and to some extent I agree with you – these are all important factors) while I’m inclined to think that perhaps it’s the pairing of Falci’s blades with the Swiss (and later, Canadian) snath, combined with our heavier grasses. i.e. my thinking is that if you brought your favourite rig over here, you’d find it more inclined to dig in that it does at home.

      Nonetheless, I welcome your critique of my generalisations, which are of course likely to create hard-and-fast misconceptions in the minds of people eager for information. Indeed, at our workshop this weekend we tried not to promote any “rules” about scything (other than in regard to safety), but rather attempted to explain what the parameters are, which are likely to affect performance, and then let people take that knowledge home and experiment further.

  2. The cocksfoot looks very much like the setaria pasture I harvested for hay. When setaria ages it forms tussocks of dense woody stems which die off and shroud the clump. They stop a blade dead. On areas with lots of these I use my SFX 65cm on my 160cm snath. I reduce the haft and often end up doing a lot of hacking I’m ashamed to say.

    The regrowth was bright blue green, light and much easier to cut. In some areas I used the Falci 100 75cm again on my 160cm snath and it went through it like butter.

    Thanks again for the wedge and the tips on adjustments. I’m preparing my blades tomorrow for a large job next week which will require them all to be sharp. I’ll try the wedge and some of your theories on my Falci. Now that I have the 170cm snath I realise the 160cm was too small and was the reason I was wedging my SFX 90cm for mowing lawns. The changes I had you make to the tang made my falci work well on the 160 but it’s not so good on the 170. Maybe the wedge will help this.

    Your observations about Australian soils influencing plant growth are interesting and I’ve learnt a new word, sclerophylly.

    The African species commonly planted as pasture in Australia, especially here in the subtropics, have also evolved to resist the teeth of the mega fauna which still roam their plains. Have you ever cut into an old matted bed of kikuyu? Once you get underneath it yields, but before that it can be very hard going.

    • Thanks for the comments, Jeff. That solves a bit of a mystery for me – it was doing my head in why a man with self-professed “gorilla arms” would want the tang elevation increased!

      And yes, you’re always behind the eightball from the outset, if you have a snath that’s not the right size.

      If you can let me know your preferred tang elevation (got a protractor handy?) on your new snath, I’ll make a note of it; I like to keep a record of changes made at customer request so I can offer the same for repeat purchases.

      Please let me know how you go with the wedgie!

  3. If I’m understanding your accounts correctly it seems to me that you’re mostly conflating the influence of the roll (as in pitch/yaw/roll) of the tang with the position of the toe of the blade when the most profound effect of the roll will be on the position of the grips and the horizontal balance.

    With my American snaths I have the liberty of rotating the nibs around the circumference of the snath to affect a comfortably balanced position. While this feature may exist on some other styles of snath (like Russian single-grip snaths) there are seemingly few that give such a convenient means of impermanent lateral fine-tuning. The set of the heel is, ideally, adjusted so that the right hand will sit along (or near) the axis of horizontal balance during use, and the comparative angulation of the nibs set so that a slight oppositional tension is created when “tillering” (adjusting the lay on the fly during mowing via hand position) for additional stability. With a snath using grips that are unable to roll (as most stemmed snaths may only slide the grips up and down the shaft of the snath) then adjusting the roll of the tang is one way to do it. This has the consequence, however, of altering not only the angle of the grips (which aren’t usually intended to contend with this sort of adjustment) but also their distance from the body. On a Swiss/Canadian snath with a stemmed lower grip, the right hand will now sit farther from the body in addition to the matter of the grip angle being less than ideal if previously well-adjusted. A better means of placing the hand properly along that axis would be an adjustment of the yaw of the right hand, though this will then move the left hand farther from the body. An even more ideal manner of adjustment would be an offset in the neck of the snath, but that would mean making your own.

    With the increased roll of the tang the snath may be held in its “neutral” position with the wrists dictating orientation, but then the toe of the blade will be lifted and the edge as a whole will ride tangentially to the ground. On the cocksfoot, due to the clumpy nature of the stalks, I imagine that this higher ride resulted in the edge meeting the stalks where they were less lignified and easier to cut. The lift of the toe can serve a couple of functions, namely (in cases with a true overall crown to the blade) it will allow it to “scoop” into dips and valleys, but more generally it is an insurance factor against what I call “lancing” in the presence of hillocks–the elevated toe causes the slope to strike the underside of the blade and redirects it up and over the hillock rather than the tip plunging into the dirt (or other obstruction.) The drawback of a more heavily crowned blade is that you will be taking a less uniform and level swath, resulting in “mowhawks” unless you have considerable overlap of your strokes, which is inefficient and results in a lot of “minced” vegetation. However, the increased roll of the tang is not equivalent to an increase in crown, and you’ll have some odd bending effects on the grass during the cut unless the blade is of fairly odd shape.

    You’re correct that, ceteris paribus, a more closed hafting angle will increase ease of mowing at the expense of volume taken in the swath, due to increased edge engagement.

    • Hi Benjamin, thanks for your comments. I must say I always find your prose quite heavy going – I need to lift my tip a bit to get through it! – but there’s always something in there to chew over.

      It’s an interesting point you make about the horizontal balance (and Peter made the same point above – that ANY change in the roll/twist – will affect the ergonomics of the unit). While it’s a hard and fast physical fact that the twist will change the presentation of the grips to the body, I’d contend that it may not necessarily decrease the ergonomic experience (which you’ve acknowledged with the caveat of a “previously well-adjusted” rig). A flat (in roll) tang will indeed put the grips back toward the user, but the angles on the Canadian snath grips are quite pronounced, so I’m not sure how well your rule of thumb about the right hand sitting along the axis of balance, actually applies. Especially since the Canadian grips are angled downwards quite a lot.

      Or, in other words, there is obviously an optimum, somewhere along that continuum, and it could well be closer to where I now have the tang on my 75 sitting.

      Interestingly I find that quite the opposite of your conjecture about the “higher ride” is true – I’m able to mow closer to the ground and more cleanly with the increased tang roll, which does suggest that I’ve come closer to an optimum arrangement for my own body/style and snath/blade combo.

      • Regarding the higher ride, that would only hold true *IF* the snath was being held in the same position it had been previously. If allowing the blade to lay naturally the right hand will now sit farther from the user, however, and there is likewise a spectrum of positions between those antipodes.

        Regarding all of this balance stuff it may be helpful to think of the scythe as hanging from threads like a mobile. For the purposes of this exercise ignore fore/aft balance and think only of the lateral balance. If both hands are parallel to the axis of balance then your effects are simplified conceptually. If the axis sits to their left (more distal than the hands), the toe will dive unless you resist it with your muscles. If the axis sits to their right (more proximal than the hands) the toe will “lean back” and the blade will want to rest more on its heel. If the hands are right on the axis then the scythe will not tilt, and will float neutrally instead. If the hands do not sit parallel to the axis then things get a little more conceptually messy and you start having to get more careful about balancing oppositional forces.

        The angulation (pitch) of the grips you mention has little impact on how the hand lies relative to the horizontal balance axis, though it will impact ergonomics and how leverage on the “suspension node” will tilt the scythe. On an American snath it matters a bit more because alterations of the angle result from rotation around the shaft of the snath, which creates some small change in the position of the “suspension node.” The closer to the axis of horizontal balance the hand is, the less pronounced the leverage will be from the “suspension node”.

        • The Canadian grips are angled outwards from the body and also downwards – so that there is quite a bit of that “rotation” around the shaft equivalent to adjusting the nibs on a US/UK snath. The difference between the Swiss and Canadian snaths is quite marked in this respect. Here are the two grips set up on the same snath.

          Grip

  4. Fellas c’mon!!! Stop pissing on each other’s trees. I bought an ancient rusty scythe and spare blade at a garage sale. They rusted a bit more at my place for a couple of years, but I’ve just clean one off a bit, sharpened it very clumsily and used it to cut the thistles invading from next door and it was very effective. I now want to buy a decent scythe to keep thistles at bay and also cut phalaris. So I am researching blades, but I’m not wanting to wade through a lot of ‘opinion’ pieces. I’m 62, not super strong, 5’5″ tall. Recommend a set up in 100 words or less.

    • Fair’s fair, Ruth… it took you 112 words to request a setup in 100 words or less 🙂 Any blade will do what you require. Any that doesn’t, isn’t set up correctly. Defining “correctly” is where the nuances of opinion pieces come into play. Other than that it’s just a case of which end of the scale you want your compromise to be positioned.

      From our catalogue a 35cm blade would probably be the ideal for thistles, while being inefficient mowing pasture – you’d want something longer. If you haven’t mowed with a tensioned blade before, I’d recommend the 65 or perhaps a 75 with a heavier edge, as a good compromise. At your height you could probably get away with either of the Canadian snath sizes, but there are more factors than height alone to consider. For now it’s a moot point as we’re out of stock on both sizes!

      If you have any further questions, please email us; the blog is intended for people wanting to piss on trees 🙂